Sunday, August 17, 2008

Top Five in Demand Majors

I saw this Yahoo new item that listed the top five majors currently in demand:

1. Mechanical Engineering
2. Accounting
3. Finance
4. Business Administration
5. Civil Engineering

Starting salaries for mechanical engineers average $57,821. Actually, I am surprised the chemical and/or petroleum engineers are not on that list.

Some interesting patterns emerge about that list. Most importantly, each one requires quite a bit of mathematical aptitude. From what I have observed, graduating from engineering, accounting, or business school is rather difficult for those who cannot do the math. (The good news for those without math skills is that they can always land a job at the New York Times.)

The other big point that I get is that all these fields require quite a bit of multidisciplinary cooperation. For example, mechanical engineers often work with chemical, electrical, automotive, and other kinds of engineers. They often perform cost estimates as well. Accountants and business administrators usually work with people of many different backgrounds to understand where the money goes and why. Civil engineers often work with architects. The examples are endless.

The most successful people in any major, of course, have good communications skills, people skills, and acquire a variety of talents. However, basic grounding in things like math skills gives us abilities that last a lifetime. We hear a lot these days, for example, about an employee in a home improvement store who needs a calculator to be able to multiply by ten. How do people like that get out of high school? I become more and more convinced that drilling the basics into students is more cost-effective than allowing use of expensive or even inexpensive electronic “toys” (like calculators or computers).

When I was in high school I had this chemistry teacher, Mr. Perlmutter, who was one of those guys who didn’t allow use of calculators during the first quarter of the year. We had to use slide rules or be able to calculate things by hand (as well as learn significant figures and scientific notation). He was tough, but let me tell you, everyone learned! After getting an education from a guy like that, you certainly understand what numbers are supposed to mean.

Then again, maybe I am getting to be a crusty curmudgeon in my old age . . .